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Michael Ignatieff returns to Harvard (just in time to mark 10 years since his support for Iraq War)

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Well, well, look who's going back to Harvard. The renown post-secondary institution in Massachusetts shared the news earlier this week:

"CAMBRIDGE, MA -- Acclaimed academic, author and former politician Michael Ignatieff will rejoin Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) in January 2013 in a half-time faculty appointment as professor of practice. He will also assume a half-time appointment as professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. 

 Born in Canada, educated at the University of Toronto and Harvard University, Ignatieff has written 17 books, worked as a television presenter and documentary film maker, editorial columnist and university instructor. He is a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and holds eleven honorary degrees.

Ignatieff will return to HKS approximately seven years after he won political office in his native Canada, where he served as Member of Parliament and leader of the Liberal Party. From 2000-06 Ignatieff served as the Carr Professor of Human Rights Policy and faculty director of the Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. 

So, there you have it. The Conservatives are savouring this, citing it as vindication for their over-the-top negative ad campaign that claimed Ignatieff was "just visiting" Canada. (In his defence, he'll now still be 'half-visiting,' teaching a class at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.) 

For those of us on the left, it's another chance to point out the way the one per cent and their enablers understand and practice class solidarity. There's always a golden parachute for these guys, no matter how egregious their failures, and no matter how, as in the case of this academic, embarrassingly wrong and harmful their arguments were.  

Ignatieff's first week back at the lectern in Harvard will coincide with the 10th anniversary of his most influential and distasteful article in support of the Iraq War. On January 5, 2003, Ignatieff's 7,000-plus word essay was the cover story of the New York Times Magazine: "The American Empire? Get used to it?"

This essay, which (shameless plug alert!) I critique in some depth in my book Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?, includes many classic passages dripping with liberal, imperial hubris. This one is my personal favourite: 

"America's empire is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and the white man's burden ... The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political sciences, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known." 

And so Michael Ignatieff will now return to Harvard to serve this awesome empire. He'll do it more subtly this time, to be sure; it's been a tough decade for U.S. hegemony, after all.

But don't be fooled by his (not really an) apology on Iraq, which was written in 2007 with winning the Liberal Party leadership still in mind.

If you have any doubt that Ignatieff is still very much in the business of touting American exceptionalism and policing the threats to U.S. global dominance, check out this recent piece in the New York Review of Books, which can be read as an assertion of a new Cold War-esque, binary worldview.  

Whatever else can be said about him, Michael Ignatieff takes his responsibility to protect the American empire seriously. Harvard faculty and students will just have to get used to it, again.  

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